Fiesta Bowl Picks: Notre Dame to Put Up a Fight Against Ohio State

Ted Sevransky

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 6:02 PM GMT

Notre Dame and Ohio State will meet up at the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl on January 1st, our handicapper will break down this highly expected game with his free college football pick.

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College Football Pick: Notre Dame +6.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Pick your poison in this bowl matchup! Do you want to fade Urban Meyer and his ridiculous 9-2 SU & ATS record in bowls? It’s worth noting that both of those losses came in seasons where his team suffered a late season defeat that left them flat for a ‘not the bowl game we wanted’ result. He lost in the 2013 Orange Bowl after a loss to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship Game denied the Buckeyes a chance to play for the national title. 

And he lost with Florida in 2009 after the Gators lost their chance to defend their 2008 national title by losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. It’s surely worth noting that the reason the Buckeyes are here and not playing for the national title is because of a late season home loss to Michigan State. This is not the bowl game that Ohio State wanted to play in.

The other choice here is to fade Brian Kelly in a bowl game.  Kelly’s track record isn’t quite as gaudy as Meyer’s, a relatively modest 5-3 SU and ATS. But Kelly is 20-5 SU in his coaching career dating back to his tenure at Central Michigan with extra time to prepare for their opponents. That includes a blowout over Texas and a tight win against a quality Temple squad with extra prep time this season.

And all three of Kelly’s bowl losses were understandable and acceptable. Notre Dame and their true frosh QB couldn’t hang with Alabama in the 2012 Championship Game. In fact, the only reason the Irish got there was through some serious coaching magic from Kelly during the regular season. They lost by four as three point dogs to Florida State in 2011; the same Florida State team that went on to be a force in the national championship picture in each of the next three seasons. And Kelly’s 2008 loss with Cincinnati against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl was a pretty big step up in class for the Bearcats against a defense that had allowed fewer than 17 points per game for the season.

Of course, the coaches won’t be playing and that’s what is going to put me on the Fighting Irish in this one. Ohio State was expecting to play for the national title, with 14 starters returning for last year’s championship squad. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent, but that talent didn’t mesh well this season, particularly on the offensive side of the football, as the loss of last year’s offensive coordinator Tom Hermann proved to be a very significant departure. 

Buckeye QB’s Cardale Jones and JT Barrett combined for only 2200 passing yards and 18 touchdowns; the offensive line struggled to open holes for Ezekiel Elliott to run through and the defense wasn’t as dominant as you might have expected from their talent level. The Buckeyes are loaded with NFL talent, but as a team, they failed to gel in 2015, despite that gaudy 11-1 record.

The Fighting Irish have cashed seven of their last eight against opponents with winning records, a team that has stepped up in class very well.  They faced a much tougher schedule than Ohio State this year and both losses –at Clemson in a monsoon and at Stanford – were tight, competitive defeats by exactly two points, thanks to a pair of missed two point conversions. A two point Fighting Irish loss here would serve our purposes just fine given the current college football odds!  Take Notre Dame as the college football pick.